The term “wireless charging” is one that’s thrown around a lot by manufacturers and publications alike, but wireless charging can mean different things to different people. When many people refer to wireless charging, they’re actually referring to inductive charging – similar to the technology that the Apple Watch uses. Qi is a standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium for inductive electrical power transfer over distances of up to 4cm.

The term “wireless charging” often gives people the misconception that your phone isn’t plugged in but will still charge. While that is technically true, the charging pad has to be plugged into a power supply, be it a wall plug, computer or power bank so you’re not completely free from wires.

Now that you know what Qi charging really is, how do you use it with your smartphone? Are all smartphones compatible? What alternatives are there?

Qi Charging: is my phone compatible?

There are a growing number of phones that come with the Qi charging feature, the issue is that many users aren’t aware of its presence. Phones that support Qi charging include:

  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
  • Google Nexus 4-7
  • Motorola Droid Maxx
  • Nokia Lumia 920
  • Nokia Lumia 928
  • Nokia Lumia 929
  • Nokia Lumia 930
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
  • Nokia Lumia 1520

If your phone is compatible with Qi charging, all you need to do is purchase a Qi charging pad. Recently, IKEA announced that it would be launching a new line of furniture with Qi charging pads built into them. Imagine sitting in your front room, putting your phone on the table for it to start charging while you’re not using it. Fantastic.

As mentioned earlier, those of you that don’t want to shell out for a new furniture suite can pick up Qi charging pads cheaply enough. Samsung users can purchase a branded Samsung Qi charging pad for around £30 that matches the design aesthetic of the Galaxy S5 that also automatically shuts itself off once your phone has reached full charge.

If you’re looking for a more stylish alternative, Fone Salesman offers a Qi charging pad that’s made out of Mao Zhu Bamboo – a material that apparently grows ten times quicker than wood and “surpasses wood in both appearance and sustainability,” the company claims. The WoodPuck Bamboo Edition also hides the micro-USB socket and plug, making the technology inside even more discreet.

Once you’ve got your hands on a Qi charging pad, plug it in and place your phone on top. If you’ve got a Qi enabled phone, it’ll start to charge. It’s that easy.  

Read also: How to use Qi wireless charging: Wirelessly charge your smartphone with EC Technology's Ultra-Slim Wireless Charger

Qi Charging: How to add Qi charging to an unsupported phone

It’s all well and good using a Qi charging pad if you’ve got a Qi charging enabled smartphone, but what about those of us that don’t? Apple is a good example of a brand with a high number of users who can’t take advantage of QI charging. The good news is that there are alternatives out there – they may not be the best looking, but they should work.

For the iPhone 5/5s/5c/6/6 Plus, there is a viable (and pretty cheap at £19.99) way to enable Qi charging. It may not be the best looking accessory but the iQi Mobile Qi charging receiver claims to enable wireless charging on your iPhone. How does it do it? It has a Qi charging receiver with a unique lightning connector that’s connected via an ultra thin ribbon cable. The idea is that, using a thin case, the Qi charging receiver sits between your case and your iPhone with the lightning cable permanently plugged in.

Don’t worry Android users - or anyone else that uses a Micro USB charging port - you haven’t been left out. There’s a similar alternative, but instead of having to slot the Qi charging receiver between your phone and a case, you just stick it on the back with the film provided and plug the Micro USB into your phone. It’s ultra thin and shouldn’t add any extra weight to your phone, making it a great alternative. It claims to work with almost every smartphone with a Micro USB slot and it’s a lot cheaper than the iPhone alternative too, only £6.49 at the time of writing.

If you have the luxury of being able to take the back cover off your phone (like the OnePlus One) there’s a neater alternative. Using the same Qi charging receiver film as above, simply plug the Micro USB cable into the charger, stick the film to the inside of the cover and then reattach the cover to the phone. If you’ve done it correctly, the phone should start to charge when placed on a Qi charger.